Gary Neville today launched into an angry rant over the conduct of the owners of the Premier League’s Big Six clubs for being ‘insulated from reality’, as he took aim at Roman Abramovich after his announcement he would relinquish control at Chelsea.
Pundit Neville has not held back when previously criticising influential figures in the sport, and he was at his passionate best ahead of the Carabao Cup at Wembley when asked about Abramovich’s statement, which has led to widespread confusion.
In a surprise public statement, the billionaire said he would hand over the reins at his club to the trustees of their charitable foundation. He has been in charge since 2003, but has come under the spotlight due to alleged links with Vladimir Putin.
Indeed, Parliament was told recently that he was named as a person of interest in 2019. He is allegedly also in ‘association with corrupt activity and practices’.
A follow-up statement from the club this morning insisted that those at Stamford Bridge are ‘praying for peace’ after the invasion of Ukraine entered a bloody fourth day, but it did not make reference to Russia or Abramovich himself.
‘The situation in Ukraine is horrific and devastating,’ it read. ‘Chelsea FC’s thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine. Everyone at the club is praying for peace.’
And, speaking ahead of the cup final this afternoon, Neville outlined his belief that the secrecy over the running of the club from the oligarch is part of a broader issue, namely the owners of the biggest top-flight teams looking to hoodwink supporters.
Asked about the statement, he said: ‘Maybe myself and most others that saw that statement thought it sounded like a noble gesture, the right thing to do.
Gary Neville hit out at the Premier League’s Big Six owners, including Roman Abramovich
‘But when you look at who the charity trustees are, it’s quite clear that they’re not going to be running Chelsea Football Club.
‘One of the smartest things that I think Roman Abramovich has done over the last 20 years is not speak, not make statements. The statement he made last night left more questions than answers.
‘If anything, I thought it was a cowardly approach, to throw a hospital pass, if you like, to good people on the charitable foundation board when it’s quite clear he runs the club.
‘These owners of the top six clubs are insulated from reality, they think they can put a smart PR team around them and con us with fancy words. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.
Abramovich (C) has been linked with Vladimir Putin’s regime, with his club now under fire
Chelsea today released a brief statement to send their thoughts to ‘everyone in Ukraine’
‘There’s no way the charitable foundation at Chelsea are running the club and I’m not quite sure why Roman Abramovich made that statement.
‘If he wanted to make a statement of any note, it would have been whether he supports the war in Ukraine or he actually doesn’t support the war in Ukraine.’
Abramovich was named in papers leaked to an MP which linked him to Putin’s regime – leading to calls for him to be stripped of his right to own a club in the UK.
Downing Street has not named him among those to be punished after the strike on Ukraine, with five senior Russia-based figures instead.
The government would not be drawn on the claims over Abramovich, meanwhile.
Neville was questioned on Abramovich announcing he would relinquish control at Chelsea
The likes of Manchester United’s owners (above: Avram Glazer) have been criticised by Neville
He has not been seen at Stamford Bridge in months, and denies that he has direct links to Putin or that there are any grounds to sanction him.
Abramovich was part of the group of owners savaged by Neville for their part in the ill-fated European Super League breakaway. The Glazer family at Manchester United and Liverpool supremo John W Henry were among those also heavily criticised.
The Russian businessman has not yet commented on the war in Ukraine.
Neville, however, believes that Abramovich would be against the conflict – and says that the protests and horrific scenes stemming from it would be ‘uncomfortable’ for him and those associated with him.
‘I think it will be really uncomfortable viewing,’ he added. ‘I spent a month in Moscow two or three years ago for the World Cup.
Liverpool owner John W Henry was among the group of figures pushing the Super League
Russian forces entered Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv today (pictured above)
‘I can’t believe there are a lot of Russians on the ground in Russia that are really supportive of this. I can’t believe that Roman Abramovich, if you asked him, honestly would really want this. But the reality of it is it’s here.
‘Everybody is supporting Ukraine. What we saw last night at Goodison Park was really moving. I’m sure we’ll see more scenes of that here today with the players. Fans of both Chelsea and Liverpool are supportive of Ukraine.
‘It’s horrifying to know that some of the things we’ve seen on social media in the last few days are happening in 2022. It will be uncomfortable for Roman Abramovich and it will be uncomfortable for others associated with him.’
In Ukraine, it was confirmed by president Volodymyr Zelensky that Kyiv and Moscow will hold peace talks at the border with Belarus.
Ukraine claimed it has killed more than 4,300 Russian soldiers in the first three days of fighting
Volodymyr Zelensky (L) confirmed peace negotiations would be held at the border of Belarus
His office said the two delegations will meet ‘without preconditions’ near the Pripyat River, to the north of Chernobyl, after a deal was brokered in a phone call with Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus.
‘Alexander Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return,’ a statement said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has filed a lawsuit against Russia at the Hague. Mr Zelensky has requested that the UN International Court of Justice offers Russia to stop its attack against Ukraine and starts trials soon.
Putin has ordered the forces operating Russia’s nuclear deterrent to be on alert with tensions with the West continuing to simmer.
Ukraine war latest, at a glance
- Kyiv and Moscow will hold peace talks at the border with Belarus, Volodymyr Zelensky today confirmed
- The Ukrainian President’s office said the two delegations will meet ‘without preconditions’ near the Pripyat River, to the north of Chernobyl
- Russia failed to capture Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv during fighting on Saturday night and Sunday morning
- But Russian forces entered Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Sunday morning
- Street battles were reported to be taking place, while pictures appear to show one Russian military vehicle on fire
- Oleh Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said Ukrainian forces are fighting Russian troops in the city and asked civilians not to leave their homes
- However reports in Ukrainian newspapers suggest troops have managed to repel the Russian advance on Kharkiv, with one British reporter on the ground confirming that the city remains under Ukrainian control despite this morning’s attack.
- Russian forces have reportedly blocked Kherson and Berdyansk and delivered another missile strike on Ukraine’s military infrastructure, the Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says
- UN reports that at least 240 Ukrainian civilians have been killed
- At least 200,000 people have fled Ukraine to three countries, with 150,000 said to have crossed into Poland alone
- Unconfirmed reports that a cancer hospital for children in Kyiv had been shelled by Russians forces meanwhile have also been debunked
- It has been reported by Ukrainian news site TSN that the boy was killed when a children’s hospital in the city
- According to the Kyiv Independent, at least two children and two adults were wounded during an incident at Okhmadyt children’s cancer hospital
- However the New York Times debunked the claims, saying that while gunfire was heard near to the hospital it had not been shelled by artillery
- Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko says their airforce shot down a missile aimed at the capital Kyiv, by a plane that flew in from Russian ally Belarus
- Ukraine’s defence ministry today appealed for foreigners to come forward to join its armed forces and fight back Putin’s army, with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine urging people to contact his department.
- According to UK intelligence, fighting in Kyiv last night was at a ‘lower intensity’ than the previous evening
- The MoD said there had been an ‘intensive’ exchange of rocket artillery in Kharkiv, followed by ‘heavy fighting’ between Ukrainian and Russian forces
- As the fighting raged on, Russia claimed it was engaging in peace talks with the Ukrainian government in Belarus
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation includes military officials and diplomats. ‘The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,’ he said.
- However, while Zelensky said that while said the Ukraine was ready for peace talks, he said they would not be taking place in Belarus – which was a staging ground for Russia troops prior to the invasion
- In a televised address, Zelensky, standing beside a Ukrainian flag dressed in an army green t-shirt and jumper, said: ‘If there had been no aggressive action from your territory, we could talk in Minsk… other cities can be used as the venue for talks
- He later said Russia should be stripped of its seat at the United Nations Security Council over its invasion of his country
- Meanwhile, Ukraine has obliterated a 56 tank convoy of feared Chechen fighters
- Among those killed was one of Chechnya’s top generals, Magomed Tushaev
- At least two blasts have rocked the country in the early hours of Sunday local time
- Vasylkiv, which sits southwest of Ukraine, saw its air base’s fuel depot attacked by Russian ballistic missiles
- Subsequent blaze cast an eerie orange glow over Kyiv, around 40 kilometers north east
- Gas pipeline was blown up near Kharkiv, sending huge mushroom cloud billowing into the sky
- Woman was killed in Kharkiv after Russian shell hit apartment block
- Russian premier said to be furious at slower-than-expected efforts to conquer Ukraine
- UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, writing in The Telegraph, warned Putin’s days ‘will surely be numbered’ if he fails in his ambition to take Kyiv
- Mr Heappey, a former major in the Rifles, said if Putin failed and the Russian people could be shown ‘how little he cares for them… Putin’s days as president will surely be numbered and so too will those of the kleptocratic elite that surround him. He’ll lose power and he won’t get to choose his successor.’
- However there are fears that delays in Russia’s invasion plan could lead Putin to become more desperate in his attempts to crush Ukrainian resolve
- A Russian thermobaric rocket launcher was spotted by a US film crew south of Belgorod, Russia, near the Ukrainian border
- US and EU have agreed to curtail Russia’s use of SWIFT messaging system, which is vital to for global financial transactions
- Donald Trump condemned the invasion Saturday
- He said: ‘The Russian attack on Ukraine is appalling, it’s an outrage and an atrocity that should never have been allowed to occur. It never would have occurred. We are praying for the proud people of Ukraine. God bless them all.’
- China’s ambassador to Ukraine Fan Xianrong shared a video scotching claims he’d fled Kyiv
- Urged other Chinese nationals in Ukraine to shelter
- Comes as China tries to condemn attack while keeping ally Vladimir Putin on side
- World’s largest aircraft – the Antonov An-225 – was destroyed in a Russian attack. It was 84 yards long